Bancroft acquires Mexican Inquisition treasure-trove

Long-lost historic records on the Mexican Inquisition recently acquired by The Bancroft Library document torture and burning at the stake, exile for sex acts, and witchcraft.

The manuscripts-61 volumes dating from 1593 to 1817-are mostly court cases describing some key trials held by the Inquisition in the Americas. Some are well known and were considered lost or destroyed until they turned up at a book fair this year. Together they comprise one of the largest purchases ever by the Bancroft.

The Mexican Inquisition was an arm of the Spanish Inquisition created by the Catholic Church. In Spanish America, it was launched to counter the Protestant "menace" and periodically focused on prosecuting Jews. But much of its energy went toward preventing and punishing sexual misconduct, especially among the clergy.

The collection also contains physical evidence, including the rope by which one suspect committed suicide and finger bones used by another for witchcraft.

The Bancroft now owns the largest collection of original Inquisition documents outside Mexico. After conservation measures have been taken, this latest acquisition will be available to faculty, students, and visiting scholars.

Tracking welfare recipients

The task of setting up a data system to track millions of welfare recipients for 10 to 20 years is "daunting" but it can be done, according to the first analysis of the job by Berkeley researchers commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences. Such a system is mandated by the recently passed federal welfare bill.

"I think we can do it in California," professor of political science Henry Brady says, "but setting up this system will be a daunting and expensive task."

California has 15 percent of the country's welfare recipients, more than any other state. Research data on them is maintained at the University of California Data Archive and Technical Assistance (UC DATA) program headed by Brady.

Brady compared the task ahead to establishing a whole new social security system-smaller but much more complex than the one that now tracks the work histories of all U.S. citizens and about 10 times the size of the system now used to monitor aid to poor families.

Pest buster praised

For more than 20 years, campus pest control manager Art Slater and his team have kept cockroaches, ants, yellow jackets, rats, doves, and numerous other annoyances in check with innovative methods that not only work better but also minimize the use of pesticides-by 90-99 percent since 1973.

This dramatic success on an urban campus that resembles a small city has won Slater and his three-person team the state's highest award in integrated pest management: an IPM Innovator Award from the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Slater's team has come up with some truly imaginative control methods, from raising and releasing parasitic wasps to attack cockroach eggs, to designing low-cost yellow jacket feeding stations to protect play areas.

The eaves of Hearst Mining Building are netted to keep pigeons from getting a foothold. Bee traps surround several of the campus's eateries, and five-eyed balloons discourage nesting doves.

Slater's scientific approach to insect control (he received a masters degree in entomology from Berkeley in 1974) has led to collaborations with researchers on and off campus. He's developed a UC Extension correspondence course on pest control, teaches architecture students, consults on pest control problems on all UC campuses, and even reviewed Harvard's pest control plan in the 1980s. His pamphlet on cockroach control is UC Cooperative Extension's most popular ever.

Has Slater ever met a pest he couldn't lick? "Nope," he says. "Except perhaps some humans."

Long-lost Scarlatti opera found and performed

Lost for centuries and finally discovered in Berkeley's music library, an opera by famed composer Alessandro Scarlatti enjoyed its first performance in 300 years at the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition-a celebration of early music held every other June.

Music professor John Butt directed "L'Aldimiro" with a professional cast. The San Francisco Chronicle rave review of the performance was headlined, "L'Aldimiro Well Worth a 300-Year Wait."

John Roberts, a Handel scholar and head of the music library, found the only complete score of Scarlatti's "L'Aldimiro" on the shelves of his own collection. The library purchased the manuscript in 1959 from a Florentine family as part of a larger collection, but with no title page or other identification, it had been known only as an untitled anonymous work.

Then Roberts chanced upon it and, with a bit of detective work, discovered what a gem he had. The 300-page score is in excellent condition, bound in parchment and copied in an elegant hand.

New book refutes academia's PC label

Lawrence Levine's new book, "The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History," is attracting attention as both an entertaining and learned antidote to widespread criticism of "political correctness" stifling academia. The title refers to, and refutes, Allan Bloom's 1987 bestseller, "The Closing of the American Mind."

Professor emeritus of history and an early recipient of the MacArthur ("genius") Award, Levine's book shows that conservative critics of the university are both systematically wrong and ignorant of history. The canon they claim is immutable has always been a living thing-shifting with the politics and society of the times, he says.

Levine shows that the multicultural shift in American culture and education is not the result of a plot by a cabal of politically correct radical professors, but a reflection of social change that is uniquely American, and to be celebrated.

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